Many biomedical managers claim that their most important role is to reduce repair costs, but does that really matter? A recent study of the failure of a paint spraying robot at a General Motors plant determined that every minute of downtime cost the company $3,350. That adds up to $201,000 per hour. The costs included lost revenue, overtime to meet revised production schedules, shutting down and re-starting assembly robots and many others. The conclusion of the study was that in this environment engineers must focus more on reliability, minimization of downtime and the speed of repair. The author also concluded that “Engineers who focus solely on repair costs are likely to find themselves seeking other employment.”
The goal of General Motors’ production managers is to keep the assembly line running. Their priority is to purchase reliable equipment. When equipment fails, they need engineers who can diagnose problems and make reliable repairs quickly. They want people who not only do things right the first time, but are able to identify potential sources of failure and prevent future failures. They know that saving money on repairs is not a priority when weighed against the income lost due to downtime.
Although their missions differ, hospitals and automobile plants share some similarities. Laboratory, imaging, and other department managers who rely on technology for productivity need reliable equipment and fast service. They know that equipment failure causes lost revenue. Additionally, delayed diagnoses and procedures frequently result in having to pay overtime costs to meet the needs of re-scheduled patients. Beyond the problems associated with downtime, laboratory and imaging managers do not want physicians complaining to the C-Suite that they can’t get imaging or lab results when they need them.
Biomedical managers can help to minimize interruptions to patient care and the revenue stream by offering to take first call when equipment fails. They can also assist department managers who are selecting new equipment by reviewing reliability data and assuring that installations meet any necessary power and cooling requirements. Whether or not they are directly involved in the repair of a piece of equipment they can help assure reliability by working with department heads and vendors to make certain that all planned maintenance is performed on time and according to specifications. Instead of focusing on reducing repair costs, they can promote themselves as departments who focus on equipment reliability and minimization of downtime.
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